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Choosing the right power tools for the job

Updated on September 11, 2012

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They all look the same

Working in retail for a home improvement store for over five years I have been able to use allot of different power tools in which vendors bring by for us to try out, but for a customer all of the different tools can be a bit confusing. Just like computers or cell phones, all power tools are not the same. Drills may look alike, but you are not going to use an impact to put drywall, or use a circular saw to flush cut trim. Relax, it's not all that confusing once you get past the technology and the specs they are almost all the same even though some are better than others. Just remember that with everything you get what you pay for.

Before we get into what each power tool is, and which brands are better than the other you first need to understand a couple of things. First you will want to find a good brand that fits your budget, and handling. Most people rather purchase cordless tools than electric because of the fact that you don't have to worry about hauling around extension cords to use. Brands like dewalt and milwaukee are usually for the hardcore contractor, while ryobii s for the home owner who will only use it every now and then. Also understand each brands warranty, some may have a two or three year warranty, while some offer lifetime.

Power tool breakdown


While most drills look the same you have three main drills: drill/drivers, impacts, and hammer drills. There are also more, but we will focus on the three most popular.


Drill/drivers are the most common used drills out there. The name pretty much explains it all, it drills holes and also drives in screws. Now while drill/drivers will drill holes, drilling holes in concrete will be a challenge for these type of drills. Drill/drivers are better used driving in screws because of the amount of torque it's able to drive. Always remember this fact, to screw in screws you need more torque, and to drill holes you need more speed. These drills come with a 3/8 or 1/2 in chuck to allow for a wide range bits you are able to use. If you are going to using this drill allot I recommend you look for a 18 volt lithium grade drill. Lithium batteries last longer, are lighter in weight, and pack more power than regular cordless drills.

Impact Drivers

Have you ever tried to put a screw into a hard piece of wood and midway through the screw stops, and or you can't get the screw down to the depth that you need to. Well two things happened: your bit is starting to go out and your drill doesn't have enough torque, remember that. An impact driver is like a drill on steroids, and can drive 3 and 4 inch screws, lag screws, and timber lock screws. They are also great for driving in self tapping screws. The one downside to impact drivers is that you are limited to really only driving screws, and the bits have to be inserted into the tip of the drill. Impact drivers do not have adjustable chucks, and can only take 1/4 in hex screw driving bits. Last but not least, you need to understand the difference between an impact driver and an impact wrench. As stated before impact drivers drive long screws, but impact wrenches are for bigger applications such as taking off lug nuts.


Now let's get to saws which are pretty straight forward, but still need to be explained in certain detail. There are three main saws that you would most likely use from job to job reciprocating, circular, and jigs saws. Each have their own feature which will save you lots of time compared to using the other.

Reciprocating Saws

Reciprocating saws are probably the most popular type of saw on the market. They are great because they can flush cut, demolition, cutting through walls, cutting off nail, and cutting off pipe. While most recip. saws look the saw some have more amps, and some have better strokes per second rating. Milwaukee makes some of the best recip. saws on the market, as well as Dewalt. For the most part all recip. blades should fit into all saws and you will have.a couple of different choices. Wood blades have thick rigid teeth, metal cutting blades have smaller teeth, and then you have ugly blades made for pruning and once you see it you will know why they call it ugly.

Circular Saws

Circular saws are great for cutting lumber, plywood, and any other applications were you you want to perform some quick cuts. Most cordless saws will be be between 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 in blade sizes. Most circular saws fit 7 1/4 blade sizes. Skil is a very popular brand of saws .

Jig Saws

These saws are usually used for small applications or jobs that require some finer work. This saw should be your first choice when cutting holes in counter tops, or making any circles or designs.

I hope that this has been a helpful bit of advice. Always look to be able to try your tools out before buying them. Most stores have demonstration tables set up for you to try. And find a brand that you like.


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    • dontaytte profile image

      dontaytte 5 years ago from Palos Hills

      For engraving I usually use a Dremel. You are able to control the speed so it handles great, and they have allot of bits on the market to choose from that handle a wide variety of materials.